I love sugar. Sugar cookies, cinnamon sugar, I love all of it, really. In a baking sense, sugar makes food better. It can take something kind of bland and make it bold. It can take something dead and make it desirable.
Sometimes my desire for sugar has transcended too many areas of my life. I sugarcoat a lot of my life. I sugarcoat the way I word things, the way I express myself. When I don’t like my sister’s outfit I don’t directly say – “Sophia, I hate that shirt.” I pose it, rather, as a suggestion that something better is out there – “Sophia, you have much cuter tops!”
I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to be gentle and kind with our words, to sometimes sugarcoat the truth a bit. However, I think it’s a dangerous trap many of us fall into. I think it’s a dangerous day when I don’t actually say what’s going on in my life or when there’s a substantial lack of transparency, because I’m sugarcoating my sentences and my condition with Christian words.
Instead of simply saying how I feel, I word it so people know that I am still seeking Jesus. I’ll say, “Today was very hard and hurt my heart,” or maybe even, “Today I saw a lot of my brokenness and sin,” instead of, “Today was the worst day of my life.”
I could sugarcoat my life to you right now. I could tell you how the last semester of my life has been a time of refinement and Jesus sanctifying my soul – which is true; The Lord has been gently and firmly purifying me and cleansing my heart. I could tell you how broken the world has appeared to me the past few months, how sin-infested and tragically in-need of a Savior this world is. This, again, is true.
I can also tell you what the last semester actually held, and that’s what I intend to do. I’m going to tell you the last semester of life held heartbreak, death, cancer, and loss. That the girl who used to always get option A or B, was busy searching and pleading for plan C or D. That I, a girl who prided myself on the fact that I cry about three times a year, cried and sobbed and wept for about three months straight. I didn’t know my body held that much salt water; I never knew that I could cry so frequently.
I’ve learned that finding Jesus at rock bottom is not just what happens when you’re 17 and hearing about the gospel for the first time, but a lifestyle and posture. That we do not choose to follow Jesus once – but daily. That sometimes “picking up our cross” is smiling and laughing and celebrating life’s joys, and other days it is a physical weight, a deep pit, and a conscious choice.
Maybe the reason we sugarcoat things so much is a result of what we see done in the church. I love the church. I love the local church and the ability to find community, to mentor, and to be mentored. However, sometimes I have deep fears for it. Sometimes I’m scared that between lattes, instagramming small groups, and hearing “The Lord has a plan for you”, we forget that it is okay to not be okay. We forget that there are days full of death and despair and the sheer pain of what you hoped for no longer existing, that no amount of sugarcoating and out-of-context Bible verses could ever heal. That Jesus can be found while sitting on your floor crying. That the Spirit is greatest when you are smallest, and I promise, nothing makes you feel smaller than being in the light of tragedy.
Maybe, just maybe, we forget that Christ dying for our sins means He died for our sins.
Christ covering our sins doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean that we are seen as perfect by our Father. Because of the cross we don’t have to act perfect; because of the cross we won’t always be okay, but we know eventually it will all be okay.
Following Jesus isn’t always scripture-painted canvases and highlighted bibles posed delicately next to a morning cappuccino. That’s what I wish someone would have told me; that’s what my heart is bursting at the seams to tell you today.
In my last few months, following Jesus has been tear-filled prayers on the floor of my room in a sorority house. Following Jesus has been making sure I am self-aware of how I am actually doing and not just telling people how I’m doing. Following Jesus has been believing Him to heal friends, mend relationships and bring peace, and claiming Him when that doesn’t look like what I thought it would.
Genuine faith is not just what we live by when everything is going well. Faithfulness is a lifestyle; it’s a lifestyle of believing Jesus when we don’t get what we want, when our prayers lead to something else. Be faithful in your pursuit of honesty and authenticity. Be faithful in making sure you don’t use too much fluff or too much sugar to describe our lives in moments of trouble and desperation. Be faithful in choosing joy above all else.